Felony Arrests UP Context Not

Felony ArrestsThe Sun-Times’ article  detailing the rise in felony arrests would serve their readers interests more if the Sun-Times did the reporting necessary to let their audience know the impact it had on crime and violence in Chicago.

What readers were provided with instead was a regurgitation of numbers that without the needed context leaves the audience as ignorant on the issues as they were before they read the article. Using data to drive articles is fine as long as the author can reliably inform his audience of the impact of those numbers. Here the readers are left guessing.

The article in question is written by Frank Main & Fran Spielman, published on July 10 and titled “Felony arrests rising in Chicago after decade of decline.” Let’s examine some of their data use more closely.

“Felony arrests rose slightly last year in Chicago after a decade of declines, due in large part to more drug busts and cops going after people with outstanding warrants, according to the police.”

Chicago, Sun-TImes 7/10/19

Well, that is an interesting factoid I am sure they are going to talk to experts to see if the increases in arrests helped reduce crime. If the arrests didn’t have an impact than all this did was serve as propaganda for the CPD and to further disenfranchise those arrested.

“Officers arrested a total of 84,717 people in 2018 compared with 82,663 in 2017, a 2 percent increase, according to the Chicago Police Department.”

Chicago, Sun-TImes 7/10/19

Ok. Waiting on the context.

“So far this year, felony arrests have continued to rise, according to the police. There were 47,467 arrests through Sunday compared with 43,831 over the same period of 2018, an 8 percent rise.”

Chicago, Sun-TImes 7/10/19

Now I am starting to worry that they are not going to provide any analysis of the impact of this increase in arrests.

“Still, in 2009, there were 181,254 arrests. The police department’s arrest totals had steadily decreased year after year until 2018.”

Chicago, Sun-TImes 7/10/19

What they detail here is a huge 53% decrease in arrests in a decade. Certainly, this must impact crime and violence levels because if it doesn’t have an impact that might we just assume that doubling of arrests in 2009 was for nothing?

“Martin Preib, second vice-president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said, “A central factor in the decline of arrests is the false vilification of the police by the activist media.”

Chicago, Sun-TImes 7/10/19

Yes, this statement is not even remotely addressing the topic at hand. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is so stuck pushing their conspiracy theory that their spokesman cannot even take a breath and deliver an answer on topic that supports the efforts of the men and women they proport to represent. He could have easily said it is not about the total number of arrests buy arresting the right people. Our members are just policing smarter now because of technology and information with the hopes of making communities safer and reducing the negative impact of the justice system can have on communities.

“Factors that may have led to the slowdown in arrests over the past decade include a police manpower shortage and officers’ resistance to reforms that stemmed from a federal civil-rights investigation into the 2014 fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald.”

Chicago, Sun-TImes 7/10/19

Once again the police manpower shortage is pushed by reporters that cannot possibly prove there was such a shortage. This is nothing more than an assumption made and pushed by the Chicago media and politicians. They can use science to answer this question but they don’t want to because that would me they would actually have to do their jobs.

“Narcotics arrests constituted a large chunk of the city’s total arrests in 2018. There were 12,647 drug arrests last year, a 21 percent increase over 2017.”

Chicago, Sun-TImes 7/10/19

Interesting factoid but once again context and analysis is nowhere to be found.

“Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the police department, said last year’s rise in drug arrests stemmed from officers targeting areas where shootings are connected to narcotics sales, including street corners where dealers are selling marijuana.

That may explain why possession of more than 10 grams of cannabis appeared in nearly twice as many police case reports last year as in 2017.

Authorities are waiting to see how legalization of recreational marijuana will affect the city’s illegal drug markets — and drug arrests. The law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker goes into effect on Jan. 1.”

Chicago, Sun-Times 7/10/19

Here is where the article is a total failure. If these arrests are making an impact on crime and violence then many of them will be illegal to make come January 1 because of the recreational cannabis ordinance passed this year. Might this legislation be harmful to the CPD’s efforts? Well, if the Sun-Times has done the needed analysis we might know. It could be that these arrests are nothing more than a complete waste of time and energy costing us millions of collars and increasing the harm on communities of color in Chicago. Alas, these reporters have no idea so neither do their readers.

“The biggest single category of arrests last year was for people with warrants. Almost 13,100 people were arrested on warrants last year, a 4 percent increase over 2017.”

Chicago, Sun-TImes 7/10/19

Another huge failure from Main and Spielman is they don’t dig any deeper than reporting on the increase. The CPD is counting on the police beat reports to be stenographers so they can be used like this. Many of the arrests for warrants are tied to the CPD trying to get people off the street over the weekend in the summer months. This is especially true around holiday weekend like the 4th of July. Now, no reporters in Chicago have actually looked at how long the people that are arrested for these warrants actually stay locked up. Instead, the media does a big blitz of fancy reporting about all the arrests the CPD is making ahead of the weekend. Now, one might wonder why they wait to just before the weekend starts to make these arrests. Why let these violent offenders stay on the street until just the right time for the CPD to make a big media splash. That seems pretty horrific right? My bet is in actuality it is because the offenders they are arresting don’t stay locked up for long and thus if they were arrested earlier in the week they would be on the street by the weekend. If true it would mean to some degree these arrests are nothing more than propaganda for the CPD to spread and the media has been dutiful idiot in reporting the stories the way they have. Had they validated these arrests when they happened they might be in a position now to easily challenge the legitimacy of this statistic from the CPD.

“Arrests also were up 8 percent for murder, 40 percent for criminal sexual assault and 16 percent for aggravated battery, although there were far fewer arrests for those crimes than for drugs or warrants, according to the police.

Arrests for robbery were flat and arrests for theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft declined.

So far this year, Chicago crime is down in most categories, including murder, compared with the same period of the last three years. But there were fewer murders over the same period of 2015.”

Chicago, Sun-TImes 7/10/19

Their last chance for context….and nothing. Just more stenography.

I am starting to think the Chicago media purposely uses data to get readers to read articles of theirs that the public would otherwise skip right by but then doesn’t deliver the analysis teased with the flashy headlines and leads. Since the Chicago media does little to validate the activities of the CPD on a daily basis they are certainly out of the league when it comes to analyzing their activities over a decade. We cannot just allow our press to print press releases from the CPD or worse yet independently write up a press release for the CPD and put it in their paper disguised as independent media. One wonders what the editors are thinking allowing this piece to run. The reason we have journalists working at newspaper and not comedians is that journalists are supposed to provide us with the context we need to understand the actions and activities of government. This article is certainly not allowing us to understand the actions and activities of government.

Author: Tracy Siska

Tracy Siska is the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Justice Project.

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